Five Heavy Albums that Changed My Life with Shane Embury of Napalm Death

It’s not too often we give an album a 10 out of 10 rating, but Napalm Death’s new album, Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism, got the perfect Decibel score recently, and for good reason: the record rules, straight up, the band as hungry, forward-thinking and vital as ever, the record a total monolith of extremity.

To celebrate its release, we caught up with bassist and grindmaster general Shane Embury to find out what five heavy albums changed his life. It’s no surprise the choices range from raw proto-black to experimental noise rock, given that Napalm Death at least flirt with some of the sounds found on all of Embury’s choices.

“To name five albums is very tough,” says Embury. “Here I go…”

Slade – Alive! (1972)
Growing up in the small, Hobbiton-ish village of Broseley, Shropshire in the UK in the early ’70s, I was first introduced to Slade at the age of 5—my mom would buy me the band’s 7” singles from the local bicycle shop, which acted as a local village record store also! [laughs] This was 1972/3—I religiously watched a weekly UK show called Top of the Pops—Slade alongside Marc Bolan, The Osmonds (note: “Crazy Horses”’ bass line is amazing), etc. would be on there regularly. The show’s opening credits tune at the time was “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin, so you could say the crunch of the guitar sound (heavy to me back in those days) possessed my village soul! Slade were visually as loud as their music, and I loved it; great choruses and personalities I could relate to; lyrics that were grounded and from the street. These guys were a major influence on KISS, by the way. My destiny was set in motion!

Judas Priest – Killing Machine (1978)
We had postal order record clubs in the U.K. cheesily named “Britannia U.K.” Being in one of them, this amazing album, alongside Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak and Black Sabbath’s Never Say Die!, further indoctrinated me into their introductory offer of an album a month. Unfortunately, followed a month later by Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell, which pissed me off immensely and was returned back to them very swiftly! Of course, the Priest, Lizzy and Sabbath had many other amazing albums, but these three ignited the passion in me to get them all. This would be around 1978/79. On Killing Machine, I loved the sound of the guitars and Rob Halford’s screams—his worded lyrical symmetry as well is an inspiration when I write lyrics. A lot of the time they have to rhyme—what’s the point in in just using clever words if generally you need a dictionary to try and work out the theme of the song? I saw these guys at Birmingham Odeon a couple of times, the last time on the Screaming for Vengeance tour. Me and my friend Mitch Dickinson (Unseen Terror) stood behind the guys from Witchfinder General. Amazing memories!

Venom – Welcome to Hell (1981)
This was the album that did it for me—sure, noisy production (which I loved), but, man, in 1982 (I think that was the year), with my headphones on in the afternoon after I had returned from the record store (as my dad was asleep from working night shift) when “Sons of Satan” comes in, I was like, “Fuck me.” Life at school changed—all I wanted to be was be in a heavy metal band. Songs about Satan… Pyrotechnics… Inverted crosses! Distorted bass sounds—I am in, 1000%. This was a great stepping stone toward bands like Discharge, GBH, Dead Kennedys, the Exploited, as the aggression and power to me were the same. The world of punk rock came bashing in, so Venom will always be one of those bands that opened many doors. And I don’t give a fuck who thinks what, I will fly their flag forever. Their influence led toward my eventual tape-trading interest, where I wrote to (and got to meet) Bill Steer and Ken Owen (Carcass) about my first band Warhammer (heavily influenced by Venom/Bathory/Possessed). Those guys came to our first ever gig of two! [laughs]

Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation (1988)
I was introduced to these guys through a friend of mine, Martin Nesbitt, who worked at Earache for a while and also managed Carcass for a spell. I have always been on the lookout for new music [like] Killing Joke, My Bloody Valentine. The From Enslavement lineup of Mick, Lee and Bill, we always listened to John Peel, who would play these guys a lot! The guitar chords, noise/sonics and placement of notes, odd drum rhythms on this album and also on all of their albums, are a massive influence on me and can be heard in subtleties throughout the past 25-plus-years of tracks I have written for Napalm and my Blood from the Soul albums. I am listening to this album now and it’s sending me into a mind-bending trance as always…

Cardiacs – On Land and in the Sea (1989)
It’s no secret to anyone that these guys are one of my favourite bands. Unfortunately, the main guy and conceptualist Tim Smith recently passed away after a long battle [with brain damage and dystonia]. I was fortunate to not just be a fan but a friend of his. Tim and his band’s influence be with me forever. I will miss him dearly and the world is an even sadder place without him in it. This is the band’s second album. I was introduced to them on [their] Big Ship mini album—their mixture of prog, fast-paced punk and ska and their theatrics totally blew my mind! Tim’s lyrics are, I believe, deep-rooted but abstract in lots of ways, and I love that also—there should and could be many meanings and interpretations to his words; true engagement with their fan base. [Cardiacs’] crazy time structures and notations have seeped into the faster riffs that I write for Napalm Death, for sure—subconsciously, it’s inevitable. Oddly enough, when I first saw Napalm Death as a three-piece at the Mermaid pub in Sparkhill, Birmingham, back in 1986, Cardiacs played a few weeks later… Destiny again at play here, I believe…